The critical significance of futures transactions is that they transfer the risk of price fluctuations. People who wish to avoid the risk of fluctuations in the prices of spot commodities (the danger of unforeseen price fluctuations) can sell or buy futures on those products as a hedge against this type of risk. When people who hold a commodity wish to avoid the risk of fall in the price of the commodity, they sell commodity futures for the same amount as that of the commodity that they hold. On the other hand, if people who plan to purchase a commodity in the future wish to avoid the risk of rise in the price of the commodity before the purchase, they will buy commodity futures for the same amount as that of the commodity to be purchased. The investor would use bond futures to avoid risk if his/her portfolio consisted of bonds. These types of trading are known as hedge trading, and a person who engages in hedge trading is known as a hedger. The reason that futures can be used as a hedging technique for spot commodities is that, as described above, there is a strong correlation in movements between the futures and spot price (see “2-2 Futures Price Formation” in this Chapter for details). If it is possible to use futures transactions to hedge the risk of price fluctuation in the spot market, this would probably make more people willing to take positions in the spot market. This would apply both to investors as well as to dealers who handle trading in shares and bonds. Thus, the existence of a futures market can be considered to increase the depth of the spot market for the underlying products, thereby raising its liquidity. In addition to hedgers, other participants in the futures market include those investors who accept the risk of simply buying and selling futures as they look for high returns on their money, along with those participants who are out to profit from price differentials either between the futures and spot markets or between one futures and another. The first of these two types of participants is called a speculator, one who is involved in speculative trading. The other type of participant is called an arbitrager, and the trading is called arbitrage trading. The function of transferring risks, which is inherent in futures transactions, is the result of trading on a market in which hedgers who hold risks in mutually offsetting directions transfer a portion of that risk to each other, and where hedgers transfer that risk to speculators. Thus, the futures market provides a method for hedgers to avoid risk, opportunities for speculators to obtain risk profits, and opportunities for arbitragers to obtain arbitrage profits.
edging means taking a position in the futures market that is opposite to the one taken in the spot market. This is an attempt to avoid the risk of price fluctuation in the spot market. There are two hedge positions: the sell hedge and the buy hedge. A) Sell Hedge If an investor anticipates that the actual assets he or she holds will fall in price, that person can take a sell (short) position in the futures market now. If share market prices fall as anticipated, that person can then buy back the futures and make a profit, thereby offsetting the loss suffered in the spot share market. B) Buy Hedge If an investor anticipates that the actual assets he or she plans to buy in the future will rise in price, that person can take a buy (long) position in the futures market now. If market prices of the assets rise as anticipated, that person can then sell the futures and make a profit, and use this money to cover the rise in prices between the time the futures were purchased and the time they were sold to buy the actual assets. JGB futures transactions can be used to prevent losses that result when the bond market falls when one already holds the underlying bonds, or to prevent opportunity losses when the bond market rises before you can make a purchase when you wish to acquire actual government bonds in the future. However, because the underlying products in a mid-term (5-year) JGB futures transaction, long-term (10-year) JGB futures transaction, and super-long-term (20-year) JGB futures transaction are all standardized products, in order to hedge the underlying individual JGB appropriately, one must learn the required techniques. Moreover, the bond futures that are currently traded in Japan are the 5-year JGBs, 10-year JGBs and 20-year JGBs, and there is no futures transaction on any other bonds. However, bonds are less idiosyncratic than shares, so it is possible to a great degree to hedge other bonds using JGB futures transactions. If an investor owns one or more actual shares and wishes to avoid a loss from a fall in share market prices, or if an investor intends to buy one or more shares in the future and wishes to avoid losing a share investment opportunity caused by a rise in share market prices, he or she might hedge using index futures. However, TOPIX futures are based on the float-adjusted market capitalization of all domestic common share issues listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange market, while Nikkei 225 futures are a simple average of 225 shares listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. For these reasons, the price fluctuations of the underlying shares of these futures will normally not be the same as the price fluctuations of one or more of the actual shares an investor would want to hedge. Consequently, when index futures are used to hedge one or more actual shares, it is necessary to first find the sensitivity between the two. More specifically, regression analysis can be used to find market models based on the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM). Using this technique, we can derive the following linear regression equation: R = α + βr Here ‘R’ is the investment earnings ratio on a single actual share or multiple actual shares, while ‘r’ is the investment earnings ratio for the same portfolio as the underlying product of the futures index. The β (beta) value in the formula above indicates how sensitively the earnings of the portfolio react to the behavior of the whole market. If the β value is 1, this means that the price of portfolio moved in the same manner as the market average; if the value is larger than 1, this means greater price movements, and if it is less than 1, smaller movements. In other words, this value represents the percentage by which the price of the individual or multiple actual shares will change when there is a 1% change in the value of the product underlying the futures index.
Arbitrage trading is a type of trading that aims to make a profit without taking risk when there is a gap between the spot prices of two financial products (trades) that will have an equal value at a certain point in the future, by selling the more expensive product and buying the less expensive. The absence of arbitration means there is no arbitration opportunity (in the strict sense) in the market. Arbitrage trading in a strict or academic sense mentioned above is a trading strategy for making a profit with certainty even if the prices of the two products (or trades) are more expensive (or less expensive) than a fair price. A general approach of arbitrage trading is, based on the concept of relative index arbitration, to sell the more expensive and buy the less expensive product when there is a price gap between the relative indices related to the prices of the financial products (or trades), and then conduct an offsetting transaction when the price gap no longer exists, thereby making a profit. The section below explains arbitrage trading conducted between the share index futures and the underlying index (referred to as the “underlying product”) which have price movements that show a close correlation. In order to determine which of the two prices, the futures price and the spot price, is more expensive, it is necessary to first assume a theoretical futures price (relative index). As explained in “2-2 Futures Price Formation”, the theoretical price can be calculated by the following formula. Theoretical futures price This formula can be simplified as follows. Theoretical futures price = Spot price + Interest income for the period until the expiration date – Dividend income for the period until the expiration date ・ The future price represents a value (at a certain point) in the future, expressed as: (i) future value = present value (spot price) + earnings ratio (yield). ・ Dividends receivable when holding the underlying share cannot be received in arbitrage trading, therefore: (ii) future value = present value (spot price) – dividend income. ・ According to (i) + (ii): future value (futures price) = present value (spot price) + interest income – dividend income. Futures transactions are margin transactions (which require fewer funds than transactions of the underlying shares). Investors consider gaining interest income by investing the remaining funds they possess in other risk-free assets during the period until the date of settlement (expiration date). Therefore, interest income is added to the present price. However, investors cannot receive dividends that are receivable when holding the underlying shares. Therefore, dividend income is deducted from the spot price. As the expiration date approaches, the cost of carry until the expiration date decreases (comes close to zero). Accordingly, the gap between the theoretical futures price and the spot price becomes smaller and these prices coincide with each other at the special quotation (SQ) on the expiration date. Now, in what conditions is the futures price more expensive or less expensive than the spot price? In actual futures transactions, the futures price changes depending on the supply and demand balance and exceeds (becomes more expensive than) or falls below (becomes less expensive than) the theoretical price. This brings about an opportunity for arbitrage trading. For example, if the actual futures price exceeds the theoretical price, investors sell the futures (more expensive) and buy the underlying product (less expensive) (buy arbitrage). On the expiration date, the futures price and the spot price become equal. If investors, taking this opportunity, conduct an offsetting transaction to buy back the futures position and unwind the spot position, they can earn a profit equivalent to the initial price gap. This offsetting transaction is referred to as “arbitrage unwinding sale.” On the other hand, if the actual futures price falls below the theoretical price, investors buy the futures and sell the underlying product (sell arbitrage), and then they conduct an offsetting transaction when the futures price becomes higher than the theoretical price even before the expiration date, aiming to fix the profit from the transaction. Regarding the actual balance of arbitrage trading, since it is rare for the actual futures price to be constantly below the theoretical futures price, buying arbitrage forms an overwhelmingly majority of arbitrage trading. Buy Arbitrage: If the futures are trading at a premium (futures price > theoretical futures price): sell the futures and buy the underlying product. Sell Arbitrage: If the futures are trading at a discount (futures price < theoretical futures price): buy the futures and sell the underlying product. Furthermore, since arbitrage trading allows investors to reap returns (profits) with very little risk, there are many traders who are watching for the opportunity to make such trades. Timing is important to get the chance to make money. In markets that have inadequate liquidity, performing such trades will have an impact that could cause the markets to move in disadvantageous directions, making it impossible to create the desired arbitrage position. Similarly, when liquidating an arbitrage position, the impact can also cause prices to move in an unfavorable direction, decreasing the level of profit anticipated. In other words, if the market has insufficient depth of liquidity, large numbers of such trades cannot take place. When investors are extremely bearish and make fewer buy orders for the spot trading of shares, conducting an arbitrage unwinding sale could result in accelerating the decline in share prices, and in this respect, the arbitrage buying balance (the balance of shares bought through arbitrage trading) is an important indicator for assessing the supply and demand situation in the market. Furthermore, because such trades normalize the price relationship between futures and the underlying commodities, they play an important role in creating appropriate prices in these markets. In other words, the arbitrager is indispensable if the hedger is going to use futures to make the appropriate hedges. A typical example of arbitrage trading is spread trading. This trading involves taking advantage of the price gap (spread) between two futures. When the spread reaches a certain level or more, the investor will simultaneously sell the higher-priced contract and buy the lower-priced contract. Later, when the spread returns to a certain level, the investor will close out each contract and earn a profit. There are two types of spread trading: calendar spread trading (inter-month spreads) and intermarket spread trading. (i) Calendar Spread Trading (Inter-Month Spread Trading) A calendar spread trading is a transaction that makes use of the fluctuation in the range of a certain level that occurs in the difference in prices between futures with two different contract months (a nearby and distant contract month) of the same underlying product. The investor will take positions when the spread increases or decreases, and then close out these positions when the spread returns to the anticipated level, thereby taking a profit. In the case of bond futures transactions, if the gap (spread) between the ‘nearby contract month price and distant contract month price’ of an underlying product is anticipated to increase, a trader can buy the nearby contract and sell the distant contract. This is called buying the calendar spread. Conversely, if a trader anticipates that the gap between the ‘nearby contract month price and distant contract month price’ will diminish, that person can sell the nearby contract and buy the distant contract. This is called selling the calendar spread: Buying the calendar spread = Buying the nearby month + Selling the distant month Selling the calendar spread = Selling the nearby month + Buying the distant month In the case of index futures transactions: Buying the calendar spread = Buying the distant month + Selling the nearby month Selling the calendar spread = Selling the distant month + Buying the nearby month (ii) Intermarket Spread Trading An intermarket spread trading is a transaction that makes use of the difference in prices between different futures products (such as TOPIX Futures and Nikkei 225 Futures). In this case as well, the assumption is that a deviant price differential will ultimately approach a certain level. Nevertheless, care is necessary because the prices of the different contracts are determined differently, and consequently the spread may not shrink.
(3) Speculative Trading
This is a speculative type of trading that looks only at the profit that can be obtained through changes in the price of the futures. In this type of trading, one purchases the futures if one thinks that the price will go up, and sells the futures if one thinks the price will go down. While the same types of speculative trading occur in spot markets as well, the distinction in futures transactions is the ability to make large trades with only a small margin deposit. This is known as the leverage effect. The leverage effect makes speculative trading in futures higher risk and higher return than speculative trading in the spot market. There are speculators in both types of markets, adding high levels of liquidity to both. Speculators play the role of the risk takers by accepting the risk transferred to them by the hedgers. This makes them an indispensable element of the futures market. One benefit of futures transactions is that it allows a large trade to take place with minimal funds (margin), thus providing trading opportunities to speculators who would like to make profit by aggressively taking advantage of price fluctuations. There are two types of speculative trades, those that follow the trend and those that are contrary to the trend, or contrarian. (i) Trend-Following Approach The trend-following approach is an approach to trading in which one buys when the market is rising, on the expectation that the market will continue to rise, or when one sells when the market is falling, on the expectation that the market will continue to fall. (ii) Contrarian Approach The contrarian approach is an approach to investing in which one sells when the market is rising because one believes that the market is sure to fall, or buys when the market is falling because one believes that the market will begin to rise again. The contrarian approach is also related to the investment approach in which one buys because one feels that the market is undervalued and sure to rise, or one sells because one feels that the market is overvalued, and is sure to fall. (iii) Fundamental Analysis and Technical Analysis Engaging in speculative trading based entirely on intuition is quite risky. Fundamental analysis is the process of determining the direction the market will take by analyzing things such as economic trends, financial and government policies, international balance of payments, price trends, and supply and demand trends of commodities. In contrast, technical analysis analyzes past market data, such as prices and volume to discern the direction the market will take in the future.
Adjusting the Expiration Year of Portfolios
When the manager of a bonds portfolio expects the market to fall temporarily, the manager might first liquidate the long-term bonds in the portfolio and replace them with short-term bonds to shorten the portfolio maturation year. Then, after the market has fallen, he/she would switch back to long-term bonds after liquidating the short-term bonds and return the year of expiration of the portfolio to its previous length. However, it should be noted that the same results can be obtained without moving the actuals in the portfolio by first assuming a short position on Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures and then buying back the Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures after the market has fallen. Actually, the effect of shorting the Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures while holding on to long-term bonds is, in theory, the same as liquidating the long-term bonds and replacing them with short-term bonds. However, shorting the Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures while holding onto the long-term bonds is not a silver bullet―it does not create a situation where it is possible to enjoy the yield of the long-term bonds while at the same time hedging against a devaluation of the long-term bonds. Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures are extremely marketable, and generally buying and selling Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures has the benefit of reducing the transaction cost below the transaction costs for buying and selling the large amounts of JGBs held in the portfolio: Long-term bonds held + Short position in Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures = Short-term bonds held At the same time, the effect of having a long position in Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures while holding short-term bonds is theoretically equivalent to liquidating the short-term bonds and purchasing long-term bonds: Short-term bonds held + Long position in Long-term (10-year) JGB Futures = Long-term bonds held